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Canada's Liberal Party Wins Handily In What Was Expected To Be Tight Race


Canada will be getting a new prime minister. Justin Trudeau and his Liberal Party won an absolute majority of seats in the House of Commons and so will form the next government. He is the son of the late Pierre Trudeau, who, during his 15 years as Canada's Prime Minister, exuded a kind of intellectual glamour that Americans got caught up in as well. So it's a familiar name. In this election, the 43-year-old Justin Trudeau defeated Stephen Harper of the Conservative Party, who has been prime minister for nine years. Joining us from Toronto is CBC reporter John Northcott. Good morning.

JOHN NORTHCOTT: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Now, this election was supposed to be close. But it turned out to be anything but. Why did Canadians go for Trudeau in such a big way?

NORTHCOTT: Well, they seem to have liked his message of positive change. He ran saying, I'm going to run a deficit. I'm going to go into the red for several years for infrastructure, for transit, for a variety of services to move Canadian economy forwards. The previous prime minister, Stephen Harper, had run on a record of fiscal responsibility, on low taxes. And it seems that Canadians said, you know what, to go into a little bit of a debt in the short term is probably not so bad. They also seem to like his message of inclusivity. We've had, for example, the refugee crisis. Trudeau was very quick to say, our Canada is an inclusive one. In the last days of the campaign, the issue over women wearing the niqab, the Muslim face covering - Stephen Harper had said he was going to look not only at preventing women from wearing those niqabs to be sworn in as Canadian citizens, but he said he was also going to look at legislation to prevent federal employees from wearing religious symbols while on the job. And Trudeau was very quick to jump on that and say, you know what, we don't have that in our vision. And it seems like the rest of Canada - many of them anyway - shared that vision.

MONTAGNE: Well, tell us a little bit about him personally. He's young-ish, father of three, likes to box, I hear.

NORTHCOTT: Yeah (laughter). Shortly after becoming Liberal leader, he got into a charity boxing match and trounced his Conservative opponent. And people started to say, well - quite literally - well, maybe this guy isn't such a lightweight. He's someone who has style. He has looks. That was the knock against him. In fact, opponents ran campaigns saying, he has nice hair, but he's not ready to lead. The comments going in was that there has been so much criticism of him that if he shows up at the debates with pants on, it will be a victory.

MONTAGNE: How will this new government affect relations with the U.S.?

NORTHCOTT: Well, I suppose it'll have something to do with who's in the White House. But he is someone who is young. He is internationalist, very much in his upbringing. It's interesting to note that Fidel Castro came to his father's funeral in Canada, a remarkable sign of the inroads that his father had made. The Liberals are - although for some that's a dirty word in American politics, it's a longstanding party in this country. They are liberal when it comes to social programs. But they are very much pro-business, and they're interested in international trade. He has said that he's in favor of the Keystone XL pipeline for which there's been some debate around in the United States. So it will be an interesting relationship but one that he won't discourage; that's for sure.

MONTAGNE: John Northcott is a reporter with the CBC, joined us from Toronto. Thanks very much.

NORTHCOTT: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.